Hernando County swings into auction to buy TreeUmph!'s old equipment.

One way forward commissioners are considering? Creating a new public park at the Brooksville property.
Auctioneer takes bids Tuesday on equipment from the former TreeUmph! adventure park near Brooksville.
Auctioneer takes bids Tuesday on equipment from the former TreeUmph! adventure park near Brooksville.
Published November 27 2018

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County now owns every bit of the shuttered TreeUmph! Adventure Park after winning an auction Tuesday for the business' assets.

County commissioners just need to decide what to do with it all.

The win came after commissioners voted 3–2 Tuesday morning to send a county representative to the auction with a budget of $200,000.

A bid of $140,000 was all it took. The auction included everything at the property — iPads, a John Deere Gator vehicle and Igloo coolers, among other equipment — except the land, which the county already owns.

TreeUmph!, off Cedar Lane in Brooksville, featured zip lines and ropes courses before it closed in August, less than a year after its December 2017 opening. The company, owned by Aaron Corr, had previously opened a Bradenton location.

People involved with TreeUmph! had predicted it would bolster tourism and the economy in Hernando County.

But the project began later than planned. Permitting dragged on. Then Hurricane Irma wrecked the park's tree-top rigs, and commissioners denied the company help afterward, declining to defer a lease payment on the land.

One way forward commissioners are considering? Creating a new public park at the property.

County Parks and Recreation Manager Harry Johnson told the board that his department would consider maintaining TreeUmph!'s "ninja course," a ground-level obstacle course for kids.

Several commissioners agreed, not only because of its public appeal but also because it would carry significantly less insurance risk than the high-flying adult courses.

Johnson also listed nature trails, laser tag "and potentially some other low-impact adventures out there to make it an inclusive park for everybody."

As for the tree-top equipment, officials said, it could be leased to a private adventure company. That would relieve concerns about insurance issues, get the business into private hands and keep recreation in the county, several commissioners argued.

"Why wouldn't you take advantage of it? That's my point," said board chairman Steve Champion. "You've got these buildings, you've got parking lots."

Commissioner Wayne Dukes said a county park there could bring more attention to an overlooked area.

"That's a part of Hernando County that most people don't see," Duke said, adding that the county could allow groups to host events at the park.

Commissioners John Mitten, Jeff Holcomb and John Allocco, the vice chair, questioned the necessity of a new park, the cost of the bid and the value of interfering with the private market.

"This is a failed business venture. This is something that is thrown at us, so the challenge is finding what is in the best interest of the taxpayer," Mitten said. "I'm in favor of getting this, if it is truly pennies on the dollar. I'm not necessarily in favor of having a park out of it because of the extra costs. It would be nice if we could get it intact and then sell it to a private industry."

Officials said the money would come from either county reserve funds or the Parks and Recreation Department.

Champion, Dukes and Holcomb voted to authorize the bid. Allocco and Mitten voted against it.

The auction was structured in two parts.

First, the auctioneer took a bid on everything at once. A bidding war between the county and a private citizen ended with the $140,000 figure.

Then the auctioneer took bids on all the individual pieces to see if they would total more than the first bid.

In the end, the couple dozen citizens who came out put together only about $17,000, and the county won. The money will go to the TreeUmph! owner's bank, county officials said.

Contact Justin Trombly at jtrombly@tampabay.com. Follow @JustinTrombly.